undermining the family and the child

AN ESKIMO FAMILY. Tenderness and responsibilit...
AN ESKIMO FAMILY. Tenderness and responsibility in their treatment of children is a virtue of the Eskimo which binds them closer to the brotherhood of civilized peoples than their skill at carving or with the needle. (
Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Phenomenon of Peer Orientation : Hold On to Your Kids  Mass coerced schooling undermines the family.  It was intended to do so.  In a time where agricultural work and truly small businesses provided most jobs, the side effects of this paternalistic method were felt far less than today when the entire context surrounding schools has been altered.

Today, mass coerced schooling, now extended to 12+ years, with its emphasis on grading and ranking and ever-increasing testing, fees and tuition, is fast replicating the child labor evils it was meant to replace. And devoid of the late 19th century social structure, schooling has created an unbalanced and excessive peer-orientation that undermines the quality of life for families.

From the post:
Dr. Neufeld has dubbed this phenomenon peer orientation, which refers to the tendency of children and youth to look to their peers for direction: for a sense of right and wrong, for values, identity and codes of behaviour. But peer orientation undermines family cohesion, poisons the school atmosphere, and fosters an aggressively hostile and sexualized youth culture. It provides a powerful explanation for schoolyard bullying and youth violence; its effects are painfully evident in the context of teenage gangs and criminal activity, in tragedies such as in Littleton, Colorado; Tabor, Alberta and Victoria, B.C. It is an escalating trend that has never been adequately described or contested until Hold On to Your Kids. Once understood, it becomes self-evident - as do the solutions.
The important work of Mate and Neufeld has profound implications for understanding the role of mass coerced schooling in undermining the social lives of children and their families. Transitioning to learning centers that were voluntary and allowed families to customize their use would strengthen and improve children's social lives as well as strengthen family relationships.

Compulsory schooling began by requiring far fewer years of attendance and schools were far more anchored within their communities.  The declining number of schools/districts due to consolidation has placed kids in ever larger social settings with authoritarian and impersonal policies instead of smaller schools and districts that can be more responsive.  


NOTE: Data for one-teacher schools available only after 1927. Some years interpolated by author.
SOURCE: U.S.Department of Education
At the same time, our social capital has also declined and the communities and social life that helped children and youth has been diminished. Families have two income earners and live remote from extended family members. Community activities are lessened, from neighborhood stores to park access to walkability of neighborhoods, all have declined. Children rarely are allowed to roam very far. From Mate and Neufeld:
So what has changed? The problem, in a word, is context. Parenting is not something we can engage in with just any child, no matter how well intentioned, skilled or compassionate we may be. Parenting requires a context to be effective. A child must be receptive to our parenting for us to be successful in our nurturing, comforting, guiding and directing. Children do not automatically grant us the authority to parent them just because we are adults, or just because we love them or know what is good for them or have their best interests at heart. Those who parent other people's children are often confronted by this fact, be they step-parents, adoptive parents, foster parents, grandparents, babysitters, nannies, daycare providers or teachers. Less obviously but of great importance is the fact that even with one's own children the natural parenting authority can become lost if the context for it becomes eroded. 
The book provides strong substantiation of the critical importance of context in supporting the family and enabling parents to parent easily.  Schools that provided parents and families real choices, that were voluntary and ungraded and that offered families a wide variety of learning services would be able to support the family and child in a learning journey.  This would be a fundamental realignment of the nature of schools that could serve to strengthen families, greatly expand the services offered, and allow the natural talents and gifts of a wider range of people to flourish.  Some think that only a very few specific skills must be trained into young children in order to form a good society.  Some want to homogenize our culture and our gifts; many want to test, control or manipulate these gifts for profit. 

We need to grow and nourish the wide variety of human gifts that are present and currently ignored, disavowed, and wasted by attempts to pound human beings into molds.  A smarter and more socially-attuned approach like providing learning services might help us grow local economies and transform our social worlds. Ensuring that families can effectively parent their children is one way to build a stronger social fabric. 

background posts
blaming parents, blaming the family



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